Thursday, February 4, 2010

Creating Change: day 2 - Dallas: Empowering People of Faith

The Rev. Rebecca Voelker, head of IWR, was the organizer of this workshop presenting discussion of the relationship of faith, people of color and LGBT issues.

Vanessa Torres and Lex opened the session with: "Ain’t No Grave…. can hold my body down and Lex read his poem: “Intentional”

Rebbecca described the workshop as investigating the "intersection of race, faith and queerness." Indeed, next year's Creating Change will feature a full workshop within the conference on issues of faith. This has been in the planning for 6 months.

A panel of queer activists introduced themselves:

Richard Juang an Asian-American, person of color and trans man described the debate about sexuality as reminding him of “Two dogs fighting over a bone in a yard full of chickens” He pointed out that while there is a well established body of juris prudence giving gay and lesbians the rights to parent, there is virtually nothing establishing such rights for trans people.

Rabbi Sharon Kleinbaum is an out lesbian helped is to redefine the idea of "center" and "margin" She asked us to imagine a wheel the center is the hub, the rim the margin. Which part really moves? Those who are working on the margins provide the vision to influence the center. She shared some history of the first and second LGBT synagogues, in San Francisco and NYC respectively, in 1973. A group of Jews were attending MCC and Troy Perry said they were welcome, but asked them why they were not celebrating in their own rich tradition. They founded the first synagogue, naming it BCC in honor of Perry's influence and later created a Hebrew name to fit the acronym meaning "House of New Life" "Christians often thank Jews for Jesus," she said. These Jews want to thank us for Troy." In NYC and Episcopal Church welcomed the second gay synagogue in Chelsea. It was only 3 months later.

Reformed, and Conservative Jews, both allow for "L" and "G," but even Reformed Jews struggle with "Bi." If it is a choice, you should choose heterosexuality is their argument.

Rabbi Kleinbaum pointed out the being a Jew is as much a culture as a religious or spiritual experience. More than half of those identifying as Jews are not connected with a synagogue.

Jon Hoadley described himself as Person of Faith who loves politics, and who likes winning. He says "It's important to know how we got here and more important to know how what we are doing today is moving us politically forward."

From South Dakota, he went to Michigan State and most recently found himself active in Kalamazoo, fighting the challenge to the city's non-discrimination ordinance that recognized same-gender couples. " The right-wing started their their very first statement with fears for the protection of Christianity and in paricular supporting the Black Church. Right out of the gate," he says, "in the first sentence." He believes that religion needs to speak to politics because we speak to an emotional core, we speak authentically.

Sharon Lettman, described her journey from one faith tradition to another as making her a "Christian mutt." She has a Latino/Black heritage and grew up in Jewish household. "The Right Wing co-opting black church, in an exploitation of religion and politics." The issue, she believes in not just that LGBT issues are difficult in the black tradition. "Black people don’t talk about sex. Teenage Pregnancy, STDs and AIDS have just gained attention after years of being ignored. "In the hierarchy where do you think LGBT concerns fit in?" she asks, and answers, "At the bottom." It has little to do with Gay… "you said the 'S' word." In the Black Church the reality is still male domination and everything defined by the messenge. "Understanding the culture is key," she says, "it has to be about the individual, personal expreience amd revolve respect for someone in the community." Change can happen she points out, A generation ago the single mother was shamed and condemned, now she is revered. PFAW started talking with friendly black churches.

"To get to homophobia in the Black Church we must get to the conversation on a local level in the language of the Black Church. We must also recognize that young people have their own church within the black church. They probably have changed and there is an underground acceptance of LGBT people developing there."

The group was then introduced to some stark realities of the life cycle of movements and asked to address some ideas in small groups. The introduction and the task will be the topic of a later blog entry... long day. But Lady Ha Ha, AKA Kate Clinton brought it to a fitting close...


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